Charcoal - Grilled Thin Crust Pizza




If you enjoy thin-crust style pizza, this is a great way to get a wood-fired, brick oven style pizza without using a pizza stone or placing bricks in the oven to keep a stable and hot oven temperature. Except for making the dough, and cutting up the ingredients (cheese, tomatoes, etc.) the preparation can be done outdoors.

This pizza lends itself to simplicity, using the freshest ingredients. This is perfect for summertime, when fresh tomatoes and basil are readily available.

Adding additional toppings - mushrooms, peppers, thinly sliced onions, etc., will make it harder to get the pizza on and off the grill. It's feasible, but first, try it with minimal toppings: tomatoes and cheese; or tomatoes, fresh basil leaves and cheese (the red, green and white of the Italian flag): that's the classic and delicious Italian Margherita pizza (scroll down to the last photo) - named in 1889, in honor of Italian Consort Regina (Queen) Margherita.

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Step 1: Prepare Dough

Depending on how you look at it, making pizza dough is easy, or an art.

Since this article focuses on the grilling aspects of the pizza, and rather than repeat what can be found elsewhere, general procedures for making pizza dough (search for pizza dough) can be used, such as:

I'll provide a recipe here, that we've used successfully for the grilled pizza. A thin-crust style, elastic dough is essential. This dough recipe will make four pizzas. It was adapted from the America's Test Kitchen TV cooking show.

2 cups bread flour
Pinch salt
1 tbs sugar
1 teaspoon (or envelope package) yeast
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour (optional, adds texture and color)
1 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil

Stir ingredients together for 1 1/2 minutes.

Remove dough from bowl, cover with towel, and allow to rest for one hour in a warm location.

Cut dough into four pieces. Roll out each piece, and let rest for 15 minutes.

Then, roll out each piece to about 9 inches in diameter. Stack the rolled dough rounds, dusted with flour and separated by waxed or parchment paper (see photo), until you're ready to grill the pizzas.

A wooden "pizza peel" (photo), like those used in pizza restaurants, will come in handy. While it isn't essential, it will make the following steps easier. To find a place to buy an inexpensive pizza peel, look in the phone book for a restaurant supply shop that has a storefront address and sells to the general public.

Step 2: Prepare Topping

Immediately before adding toppings and grilling, the grilled crusts will be coated with oil, to keep tomato juices from soaking into the crusts.

Plain olive oil is fine, but it's nice to use infused olive oil:

Gently warm 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil and add 3 peeled whole garlic cloves and 1 - 2 tbs crushed dried hot pepper flakes (or to taste). After about a minute, remove from the heat and allow to cool. This infused oil should be used soon after preparation (that is, it shouldn't be stored or refrigerated for later use).

Primary topping ingredients:

Grated Gryuere, Fontina, Mozzarella, Provolone or white Cheddar cheese (and fresh grated Parmesan cheese).

Sliced, fresh, ripe Roma or other tomatoes; seeds removed, sprinkled with salt, and well-drained (gently press out the liquid in a strainer).

Fresh basil leaves, torn (not cut - I was admonished by a native Italian never to cut basil) into small pieces.

Step 3: Prepare the Grill

I prefer using hardwood charcoal, because the intense heat helps quickly sear and brown the crust. The hotter the better.

With hot charcoal, cooking time for the first step is about 1 minute, and after adding the toppings for the second step, just 1 to 2 minutes. (Watch your fingers, or use tongs.)

The recipe wasn't tested on a gas grill, or using lump charcoal briquets, although they may work just as well. YMMV...

Step 4: Grill the Crust - Part 1

Dust the pizza peel (or large, flat plate) lightly with flour, and place a dough round on the peel (drop from the stack of waxed or parchment paper, see Step 1).

Using fingers or tongs, gingerly and quickly slide the dough onto the prepared charcoal grill.

The proper "gliding" motion comes with a bit of practice; don't despair if the first try seems clumsy. Try to get it flat (without wrinkles, as shown in the photo of the first dough grilling).

After searing / grilling, the dough will be easier to remove than it was to slide onto the grill.

Step 5: Grill the Crust - Part 2

After about a minute (watch closely), the dough will begin to puff up (see close-up photo). Peek under the edge (use tongs); when beginning to brown, remove the dough by grabbing with tongs at the edge and sliding it back onto the angled pizza peel or plate. This is really where having a peel comes in handy; made easier by the peel's thin wood and angled leading edge.

Step 6: Grill the Crust - Part 3

Flip the crust over onto a storage plate, grilled side up, as shown.

Repeat the above grilling step, stacking the crusts as shown. Having the grilled sides facing upwards makes it easier in the following steps.

Step 7: Add Toppings to Pizza and Grill It

The pizzas, like the dough rounds, will be grilled one at a time. The cooking is equally quick.

Place a grilled piece of dough, grilled side up, onto the pizza peel, which has been dusted with flour.

Thinly spoon and spread, with back of spoon, olive oil (or preferably infused olive oil, mentioned above) on the grilled side of the dough (photo).

Follow with sliced tomatoes, grated cheese, and basil leaves.

Carefully slide, using your fingers or tongs, onto the grill (second photo).

Cover the grill. The pizza (with hot coals) will be finished in about a minute...

Step 8: Serve the Dish

We made two pizzas with tomatoes and cheese, and two Margheritas. The four can be churned out in short order with a hot fire. With a hot fire, the first is still hot by the time that the fourth is done.

One last thing. I lied about this recipe serving four. The two of us quickly ate all four pizzas. ;)

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    20 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    looks great, I'll try it next weekend ;D Thanks for your instructable, looks very tasty and easy n_n


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I will fire up my Weber and try this. I can make a 1:1 comparison with pizzas out of my pizza oven.
    I just made some Flammkuchen and bread this weekend. (Hanging in the pool with a glass of champagne in our hands, while waiting for the oven to reach its temperature isn't a bad thing...)

    I let my pizza doughs ferment for at least 4 hours, using less yeast and no sugar. I think this enhances taste and texture. But of course, there is more than one way, especially in cooking and baking.

    3 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Maybe putting the grill in the lowest position and a layer of fire-brick could help those who don't have the space or permission to build an oven.

    You can cut a pizza peel from birch plywood and be certain it will be small enough to use on a grill. Finish it with walnut oil which is non toxic and edible.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I am dying to know what the final verdict was? How did the oven compare to the grill?


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Well, the oven pizzas came out more "pizza-like". It's more controllable, since it retains the heat longer and more even. I will use the Weber for steaks and burgers in the future. I built the oven for bread and pizzas and that's how i'll use it. But it's a good tip to first bake the dough alone in the grill, otherwise it wouldn't bake through or burn at the bottom. If you don't have a pizza oven, it certainly is fun to make pizza this way.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I really love pizza! So I guess I'll burn some. je,je,je


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I actually remember that episode of America's Test Kitchen. The pizza makes me hungry.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Been doing this for years. Absolutely the best way to eat pizza. if you can't make the dough, go to your local pizza shop and ask to buy a round of dough for a large pie. I usually get two for 5 bucks. That's enough for 6-8 personal pies.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Yeah, this looks delicious. Unfortunately I live in an apt. and don't have a grill. Now where did I put that flambe torch...

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I have made great pizza and bread while backpacking without a stove. Just light a fire, and place the doe on the coals once the flame is gone.

    Mr. Rig It

    11 years ago on Introduction

    Wow they turned out great. Not exactly the same way I saw them made in Italy, but who cares good pizza is good pizza. Your instructions are very clear and the photos are great. i think you did a great job with this instructable. I have two items to say: 1.What is infused olive oil, is it considered infused when you have heated it up with garlic cloves in it? 2. You gave me some great ideas to add to my own pizza recipe, thank you!


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Haha Very Tasty Lookin' i love the ruggedness of the pizza base :P REALLY want to eat that :D